Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~ Happy Cinco de Mayo Week

It's been a long, busy week. Food has been, for the most part, quickly put together with a few leftovers thrown in. I guess that's what my Flashback Friday feature is really...good ole leftovers! (By the way..if you want to join in I have Mr. Linky up this week) I was trying hard to fit into the Cinco de Mayo theme of this weeks Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum.

I love Mexican food, but I couldn't seem to find many pics in my archives of Mexican food that I've actually prepared. My Taco Salad is about as close as I could get from back in February 2008.

Taco Salad
There really isn't a recipe. You put in what you like. Mine usually has:

Tortilla chips, crushed
ground beef
olives (which I leave off of Randy's)
sour cream

Some other things that would be great on this are black beans, avocados or fresh tomatoes. The sour cream and salsa make the "dressing". This all gets jumbled together but it's not nearly as nice a picture as when it's kind of layered on.

I took very few garden shots in February 2008 and who wants to go back to February weather right now anyways? So how about a few shots from August of 2007. We can all pretend there's a warm summer breeze blowing and maybe that we are sipping on a Margarita!

I'd like to put in a big plug for my friend Barb's upcoming Mother's Day Tribute event on May 8th. I know she'd like to have all of you join in. Go check it out at Foley's Follies.

So let's give Mr. Linky a try this time!

Monday, April 27, 2009

My First Daring Baker Challenge~Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. I am forever saying..."I've always wanted to try that." I say it a lot..a whole lot. Ask Randy... It's my standard excuse when I want to mess up the kitchen. So the Daring Baker Challenge sounded like something right up my alley. Once a month a recipe challenge is posted. I've seen them do some pretty complicated stuff. Luckily for me the first challenge was actually something I've made before *Whew* Wouldn't want to flub on my first try! A very delicious Cheesecake recipe was chosen by Jenny of Jenny Bakes. There are plenty of cheesecake recipes out there, but this one is surely a keeper. Jenny was pretty clear that we could play with the recipe a bit to make it our own. I didn't monkey with it too much, but did make some necessary changes. Necessary because there is no way I was going to have a whole giant cheesecake in the house with just the two of us. Doesn't Jenny know I'm trying to lose weight? :-) To remedy this whole cheesecake dilemma, I made little cheesecakettes. And I only made 1/3 of the recipe, which made 10 muffin sized cheesecakes. Here is the recipe as Jenny presented it. My changes follow.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Suzy's Changes: I only had reduced fat cream cheese on hand and that performed beautifully. I had no liquor I wanted to use in the recipe so in half I added almond extract to one half and the other half got rum extract . Those with rum got a chocolate graham cracker crust with almond meal added. The rest were regular graham cracker crust but had pecans added to the mixture.

I thought the rum flavored ones tasted just like the Rum balls my Mom used to make at Christmas time. So let's call this one Rum Ball Cheesecake. The design was done with chocolate syrup.

For the rest of the cheesecakettes, I made a blackberry syrup using blackberries I picked and froze last summer. Mmmmmmm..these were my favorite.

So that was first Daring Baker challenge. So much fun I'm going to be doing a Daring Cooker challenge too!

With spring in full force I would feel remiss if I didn't include just a little bit of bouquet in this post.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~ BBQ Shrimp

Being from Louisiana I grew up eating lots of seafood and I love it. Especially Shrimp!!! I've eaten shrimp elsewhere but there is, in my opinion, nothing that quite compares to Gulf shrimp. Maybe something about the warm water? This week I flashback to last August. Some of my online buddies and I had a virtual Garden Party. On my menu was BBQ Shrimp, New Orleans style. It's not realllllllly barbecued. Not really sure where they came up with that name. I do know the original was made at a Restaurant in New Orleans called Pascal's Manale.

I used this recipe from the NOLA Cuisine blog as inspiration for my dish. I didn't have shrimp with the heads on available so mine were headless and the beer was probably Bud Light..good enough quality for me!

New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp Recipe

2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
1 tsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/2 Cup Abita Amber beer, or another good quality beer
1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Crystal Hot Sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Black Pepper, freshly cracked
3 Tbsp Italian Parsley, minced
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 lbs Head on/shell on shrimp

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until slightly browned. Add the fresh herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze with the beer, reduce by half.
Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, black pepper, kosher salt, cayenne pepper and the shrimp, tossing to coat well. Transfer the shrimp, the rest of the butter and sauce to a baking dish where the shrimp can bake in the sauce in a single layer. Place into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Do not over cook the shrimp!

Serve in a large bowl with the chopped parley, your favorite beer, and lots of fresh French Bread for dipping in the sauce.

Serves 2.

My flower garden was really colorful and full around that time. The summer wasn't very hot last year and although it was August things were still looking pretty perky. Those are the times I realllly appreciate living in the Pacific Northwest. Just thinking about eating shrimp outside in Louisiana in August makes me sweat! And start swatting and imaginary mosquitos...

I can't wait to see this shaggy daisy bloom again. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It's sitting next to 'Hot Lips' salvia which looks unfortunately sad this spring after our cold winter. I hope it makes it because it's definitely on my favorite list.

Looks like a jungle!

Can't you just smell these oriental lilies?

And look at the little juicy raspberry just waiting to be picked

I'm not sure of the name of this tall phlox but I love the candycane look about it.

Another great thing about gardening up here....hydrangeas all summer long!

Thanks for joining me for the flashback!

Go check out my buddies who joined me with their flashbacks!
Barb shares some Espresso Brownies I've been wanting to try at Foley's Follies
Debbie recalls some cute little leaf shaped appetizers (plus a great Tuscan inspired menu at Mountain Breaths
Jayne shows us a great appetizer platter at A Grain of Salt and
Carol tempts us with Banana Wontons at There's Always Thyme for Cooking

This is also my contribution to the potluck Michael Lee at Designs by Gollum has every Friday! Go check out all of the great posts for Foodie Friday

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday ~ Happy Earth Day!

Susan at A Southern Daydreamer holds an event every week called Outdoor Wednesday. Be sure and go to her site to check out all of the other great posts. I figured Earth Day was a great first time to join in! Almost all of the trees are sprouting out now and we are well into spring here. I love that I can take a spin around the yard in the evenings after work now that the days are getting longer. I usually take my camera with me and snap a few shots.

Yesterday evening was perfect temperature wise and the skies were so gorgeous

I hope to have clematis and roses on this arbor later this year

I love the sunset colors of this osteospurnum I bought this past weekend

Those same colors are echoed in this favorite tulip of mine, Princess Irene

The bleeding hearts are starting their show. Who couldn't love a plant that grows hearts!!!!

Another tulip with colors to match the hearts!

I thought I'd share my Wall O' Waters that are hiding 3 tomato plants. I am about a month ahead of my "planting out date" but I remembered I had these in the shed that I've never tried. I think we will have a touch of frost tomorrow night so I am hoping they work!!!! If they do we will have Early Girl, Mr. Stripey and Lemon boy in a few months :-)

Which brings me to the Kitchen part of this Kitchen Bouquet post. My favorite sandwich of all times is a fresh Tomato and cheese (american slice) with mayonnaise on white bread. The taste of summer for me! Back home in Louisiana I might expect to enjoy one in'll be lucky to get one before August is over!!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cookie Cravings!

I admit to being impulsive and easily swayed by many being tops on the list!!! Plant an idea in my head or show me a pretty picture of food that really catches my fancy and I will obsess about it for days until I make it. Weight Watchers is grateful for that trait of mine!! It means they will probably have my business until the day I die :-) I make this little confession because I had one of those episodes on Friday. Ahrisha of the Joyously Living Life blog stopped by and commented on my Everything But the Kitchen Sink cookie post and asked if I'd like to swap cookie recipes with I traipsed over to her blog to check out her cookies. I had to have them! I am a sucker for old fashioned cookies that have been around long that nobody remembers where they came from. Lepp Cakes just sounded intriguing to me and looked so soft and cute. Because I know cakey type cookies are generally less in calories I ran this recipe through the WW recipe builder and low and behold...with one minor tweak I had them at 1 pt a piece! Never mind I could eat 10 at a time........

Ahrisha iced her cookies with frosting. To lighten mine up I used a Meyer Lemon glaze instead. Still sweet without adding too many calories. I know I'm emphasizing the nutritional aspect of these cookies..and that is purely for my benefit and piece of mind, but don't let that put you off. These are very tastey, homey, soft, yummy cookies.

And by all means if you want them frosted I whole heartedly suggest buttercream!!! I just so happened to have a little bowl of some in the fridge left over from some other project. So I didn't think it would hurt to try it on a few. I have been wanting to try the little heart pan I picked up at Goodwill a while back and this recipe seemed perfect. I put 3 teaspoonfuls of batter in each little heart. They cooked up beautifully.

I'm glad I only made six though...they are a little TOO good!!

Here is my version of the recipe. I looked and looked to find out why they are called Lepp but couldn't really find anything that said why. I suppose Mrs. Lepp made really good ones!!!

Henry's Lepp Cakes

1- 1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Butter
2 Eggs
1 c. Sour Cream (I used low fat with success)
1 tsp. Vanilla
2-1/2 c. Flour
1/2 tsp. EACH Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda

Cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Sift in flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto parchment or silicone mat lined pan and bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until top springs back when touched. Mine took 12 minutes. Cool cookies for a couple of minutes on pan then remove to cooling rack.

Glaze: 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 3-4 Tbls of lemon juice..enough to get it pretty thin. I poured a tiny amount on top of each cooled cookie and spread the glaze over the top then lightly poured on sprinkles.

Trying to compete with the goodies in the kitchen, the flowering red currant is looking sweet in my garden right now!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~ Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies

Time for another Flashback Friday! I dug way back to September 2007 for this one. I really would love to make some of these great cookies right NOW! They are so chockful of all kinds of goodies. I will just dream about them instead. Less calories!!! But for the rest of you I wholeheartedly recommend them :-)

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies
from Cookie Madness
I'd like to subtitle these "Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies"!

About 30 cookies
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F or 350 degrees if you’d like softer cookies.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture until well blended. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, pecans and coconut until evenly distributed. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven for a chewy cookie or 14 minutes for a firmer cookie.
Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet and then remove to wire rack. Cool completely and then store in tightly sealed container.

Suzy’s note: I tried these with a cup of raisins along with the other additions. Over the top on the add ins, but Randy likes raisins. I also had to cook 3 minutes longer in my gas oven.

Around that same time I was baking these cookies, the dahlias were going strong in my fall garden.

Be sure and check out the other Flashback Friday posts at
Kathleen's Cuisine Kathleen
Jayne's A Grain of Salt
Carol's There's Always Time to Cook
Debbie's Mountain Breaths and
Susan's Savoring Time in the Kitchen

This is also my entry for Foodie Friday! Go check out the fabulous posts at Designs by Gollum who hosts the potluck. I guarantee you will get some great recipes out of it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Leftovers and a Surprise!

The leftovers were as good as the main meal. This ham I bought was so moist and smoked really well. Great flavor! The only thing I did was make a little glaze for the last 30 minutes of pineapple juice and brown sugar. I thought it looked kind of like a Christmas tree!

Besides the ham there were Candied Yams, Luscious Potato Casserole, Swiss chard,Leeks and tomatoes, pineapples and cherries, plus deviled eggs. I also made rolls..they were sad. I have tried twice with Randy's mom's recipe and failed both times. I know exactly what I did wrong each time, so maybe third time will be the charm. They were more like biscuits :-)

The Luscious Potato Casserole is a recipe my former sister-in-law Cathy used to make. It's rich and fattening but oh so good. Definitely not an everynight dish but worth a try

Luscious Potato Casserole

8 medium size potatoes, boiled with skin on (Chill overnight or at least cool)
1 lg can evaporated milk
1 stick margarine
1/2 lb velveeta or other cheese
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, chopped
Sour cream
bacon bits

Slice cooled potatoes and place in a buttered 9x13 casserole dish. Put milk, margarine, salt, cheese and onions in a sauce pan and cook on medium until cheese and margarine is melted. Pour this mixture over potatoes and bake for 30 mins at 375°. You may have to cover if begins to brown to quickly. Take potatoes out of the oven and spread with just enough sour cream to cover top. Sprinkle with bacon bits. Bake for another 10 minutes. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

I don't remember where I got my Candied Sweet Potato recipe, but they always cook up perfectly.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
dash salt
3-4 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbls butter
1/8 tsp vanilla (optional)

Mix sugar, water and salt. Stir until sugar is almost dissolved. Place on top of stove on high heat. Peel potatoes, slice in half then slice in 3 or 4 pieces. Put potatoes in sugar mixture. Cook on high heat 10 mins and then on med-high for 20 mins or until tender. Cook uncovered and juice will thicken. Add butter when syrup has cooked down about half. Add vanilla when just about done. I eat them at this point, but you can put them in a casserole and sprinkle with 2-3 tsps more sugar and broil for about 5 mins or until browned.


So I have very sad news....I did NOT win the pocking contest!!! Shocking I know. Randy was the champion again. He is just lucky!!!

I thought I had a perfect strategy, but he wouldn't fall for it. I had the perfect egg that was a sure winner.

Somehow he just didn't think it was fair for me to pock with a marble egg :-)
I'm still admiring my tie dyed eggs. I wonder how long I can keep them around without them stinking??

So what's the big surprise????? I won something! And I won something good. I mean REALLY good. Sara of Sara's Kitchen had a give away this week. All I had to do was comment about my favorite vacation. I said it was the vacation I spent in Spain when I was a teenager. I've had other great vacations, including the one I took with Randy and my family a couple of years ago to Disney World but that Spain trip was unforgettable. Anyways, for doing nothing more than leaving my comment I was chosen randomly as the winner of a $25 See's Candies gift certificate!!!! How cool is that?? I have been perusing the website (Click here) dreaming of the chocolates I will choose. They even have the option of putting together a custom box. Now that's an idea I love. Thank you to both Sara (who by the way has an awesome blog) and the nice people at See's! I'll share what I get when I do! I have my eye on this little gem. It has my name written all over it.

In case your wondering its called Almond Truffle Dark chocolate buttercream with ground almonds ...ohhhhh mmmm doesn't that sound yum?????

So here's another little surprise. Here's my little mophead last night. He had no clue what today held for him. He looks so relaxed and unaware...maybe even a little clueless!

And today a new dog! Isn't he cute in his little kercheif? He is pooped tonight. He is used to lounging around all day and I'm sure he wasn't able to do that at the puppy salon. The beauty regimen can be exhausting! Not to mention all of those other dogs around that he has to keep an eye on.

We've been so rainy here this week it's been hard to enjoy the spring flowers. This coming week it's suppose to be much better though so I hope to get out and about a little more. I did snap a few shots today though.

I was excited about my first camella bloom. Really my first. I haven't had any bloom before this year. They remind me of home :-)

English Wallflower

And a couple of tulips

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